SAN ANTONIO — Kierra Jordan and Maggie Proffitt combined for 52 points, nearly equaling Houston’s scoring output themselves as Central Arkansas led nearly wire to wire en route to a 69-55 win over the Cougars to complete a sweep at the Rae & Craig Blair Memorial Tournament at UTSA on Tuesday.
"It was great to see our team play so hard, dive on the floor and do the little things," said UCA coach Sandra Rushing." We competed today, and it was great to see them come together."
The Sugar Bears (8-2) finished their non-conference schedule in dominating fashion at the Blair Memorial Tournament, leading for a total of 76:24 out of 80 minutes in beating Liberty and Houston (6-6) by a combined 34 points.
The Cougars came in having won five of their last six games, but the Sugar Bears stifled the Cougars’ offense, holding UH to nearly 10 points below its season average and its second-lowest scoring output of the season – with UNLV holding the Cougars to 53 earlier this season.
On Tuesday, the Cougars shot just 19 of 54 from the field – making five fewer field goals than Jordan and Proffitt, who were a combined 24 of 36 (66.7 percent) as the Sugar Bears shot 55.4 percent for the night. The Cougars also struggled with controlling possession, and the Sugar Bears took advantage as they turned 15 UH turnovers into 20 points while committing a season-low eight of their own.
"I’m really pleased with our defensive effort," Rushing said. "We had some lapses, but overall I was very pleased. And only having eight turnovers – I’ve got to hand it to my players. We talked about that – Houston is a very, very quick team and we knew we had to handle that. We beat a very good basketball team tonight."
The Sugar Bears ran out to a 28-21 halftime lead, then went on a tear to start the third quarter as they put together a 10-0 run and built a lead as large as 17 points in the third quarter – where Jordan scored 10 of her career-high 28. Houston made a run in the fourth quarter, cutting the Sugar Bear lead to as few as six before a Proffitt 3-pointer with 6:34 to go pushed the lead back up nine.
Proffitt – who had eight points in the final quarter en route to a season-high 24 – connected on another long 3 to push the Central Arkansas lead to 12 with 4:56 to play, ending any serious UH threat.
"When Houston went on their run, we didn’t drop our heads," Rushing said. "That’s what I was proud of. We kept our composure, and that’s what we’re looking for. It was a good game for us as we get ready for conference. We needed a challenge, and Houston gave us that. We’ve still got some pieces we need to put together, but I’m very happy to come away with a win."
The win is the second straight for the Sugar Bears over a program currently in the American Athletic Conference, having also defeated Tulsa 86-77 in 2009. The loss is the first for UH to a Southland team since a 50-48 setback against Incarnate Word on Nov. 17, 2014. The Cougars came into Tuesday’s game having won five of their last six, with wins over UT-Rio Grande Valley, College of Charleston, Rutgers, Louisiana, and UTSA.